Monday, September 10, 2012

The Stretch Mark Post

"...and HER stomach looks like a road map."

I nodded in a polite way, maybe raised my eyebrows a little, as if to meet his displeasure of what this woman's stomach apparently looked like to him.

It was my husband's boss after all.  The first time I was meeting him, right after I had finished a delicious, expensive dinner on him.

He had just found out I was pregnant with triplets and after the normal oohs and ahhs about how crazy our life was about to become, he was suddenly concerned about how I was going to keep stretch marks at bay.

He mentioned coconut oil and how one of his daughters (I think...I don't remember the relation to the women he brought up, I just remember it made me uncomfortable) had used it during her entire pregnancy and didn't get one stretch mark.  But his daughter-in-law (???) didn't do one thing and HER stomach looks like a road map.

He then told Chris he would pick some up for me at this health food store he frequents and bring it to the office the next day.

First of all, let's just skip the part where he has intimate details on the condition of these women's midriffs.  Really.  Weird.

But can we focus on the fact that a MAN was having this conversation with me?  Remember how men don't get pregnant?  Remember how a man has never experienced labor pains, child birth or the lovely weeks after delivery where every place on your body that is able to leak some kind of fluid does?   Or being so large where you can't get up without rolling from side to side to gain momentum.  Or your extremities going numb.  Like unable to pour a gallon of milk numb.  Or the swelling that causes your face, feet and hands to be unrecognizable.  Or being so chock full of hormones you cry and accuse your clothes hamper of trying to sabotage your life because it is never empty. (There are literally hundreds of pregnant maladies I could list...)

Remember how a man doesn't feel the extreme highs of creating another life followed by the lowest lows of not wanting to leave your house for weeks? Remember how men don't experience that societal pressure of being sexy before, during and after pregnancy?  Tabloid headlines will never have pictures of how great DAD looks only weeks after his wife gives birth.  Remember?

But Sir, let's make this conversation about being pregnant with triplets all about the worry of stretch marks. Please.

Present tense Kara is writing this rant.  Kara of September, 2012.  Kara of September 2009 was a little less brash. 2009 Kara was not bombarded with the craziest comments from friends and strangers about the experience of having triplets.  Before comments of people telling me they would rather die than be pregnant with triplets.  Or have three toddlers.  Or say "oops, I bet that wasn't supposed to happen," when referring to my latest pregnancy.  Or say, "isn't there some kind of rule that you are supposed to stop having kids after triplets?" (The guy cracked himself up at that one.  Hilarious, tactful stranger. So funny.)

2009 Kara was before I found my voice of bravery for the sake of my children.  They will after all, hear and read these stories and no doubt have things said to their face when people find out their unique birthday situation.  They must always know how grateful I am for every single day I have with them.

So if Kara 2012 was sitting at dinner in 2009, I would've said, "Yea, everyone is concerned about different things, but I'm just hoping that all my babies are healthy and I can carry them as long as I can."

Or maybe, "Every stretch mark that every woman has or will have is a Purple Heart in the complex world of being a woman.  We are bombarded at every angle about our body image and what we think we should look like, what the world thinks we should look like and what we think the world thinks we should look like.  We are told we don't have enough kids.  We are told we have too many.  We are told we are too fat, too thin, too ugly, too pretty and usually by people who don't know or care about us.  But some broken switch in us takes in every criticism and compliment with a giant magnifying glass.  We are never enough.  So for you to turn this conversation about me housing three miracles of God's creation into how my stomach is going to look after, is borderline blasphemous and undoubtedly insulting. (dramatic pause) Thanks for dinner by the way."

But Kara three years ago, nodded and smiled and thanked him for his concern.  (Gag.)

Full disclosure: (because you always deserve it) I did accept his coconut oil gift and used it.  And I actually never did get stretch marks with the kidlets, although I thought I did.  But really, I'm not convinced it was the coconut oil, nor do I want this post to be about stretch mark prevention.

Because I have stretch marks now.  I carried this new baby of mine to 39 healthy, sometimes miserable, always exhausting weeks.  He was 2 pounds heavier than the triplets combined weight at birth. And although I winced a little when I realized these purple lines were here to stay, (those societal ideals are tough to shake)  I thought of that conversation at dinner years ago.  It made me refocus where my priorities really are and, in a way that only a healthy, big baby, born to a once quivering mother of three pre-mature infants can do--I was grateful for those permanent scars.

I don't see a road map.  I see life and hope.  I see an able vessel where four separate and beautiful miracles have occurred.  I don't have a road map.  I have a reminder that I'm one of the lucky ones.

Did she really just this picture?  Believe it.  Just doing my part to free women everywhere of the irrelevant concerns we should have during pregnancy and focus on what really matters.  After all, I know plenty of women warriors who would move heaven and earth, go to hell and back and be covered in stretch marks if it meant the end result was cuddling a little one of their own.

Believe it.


MrsD said...

I picture you , sword raised to the heavens , defying The fates to cross you and your family!! I am proud of you and the woman you have become .

Mama Bean said...

You are AWESOME!!

Carrie said...

this post must have felt incredible to write. because it felt pretty incredible to read too. you never disappoint.

i had a nice pre-pregnancy body. tall, thin, unflawed. really, it was gorgeous. and did i appreciate it? nooooo. i would stand in front of the mirror after a shower and look at my pretty body and just cry. because it was broken and it wouldn't get pregnant and give me a baby like i wanted it to.

then fast forward a few years when i was freshly postpartum. boobs, belly, hips, all covered in huge purple stretch marks. my giant doughy belly still looking more than seven months pregnant. and the pain! that has got to have been the least glamorous i have ever felt in my entire life. and yet, i looked at that painfully distorted body and loved it oh so much. appreciated every single bit of it right down to the enormous and excruciatingly painful engorged boobs.

i can't believe that boss (well, actually i can. that thinking is pretty common)... some people just have no idea.

ps- when i was pregnant with abigail i started getting stretch marks from 23 or something weeks on. chris lovingly referred to them as my designs. although i do like thinking of them as scars as well. because i earned them and it's like a forever badge that i had the privilege of being pregnant!

Staci said...

What is In the air lately. I just went on a giant rant about the same things. I went to the Kamas Health Clinic with all 3, of my kids. When I walked in, an older lady was standing at the front door. She gave me a very rude look and asked me if all of them were mine. I replied yes and she went off on a comment that was rude and completely uncalled for. When I got into the clinic, another older lady commented on my sons shoes. They were different but I was impressed with myself because there was one for each foot, they were both blue and he wasn't walking around barefoot. My little man has ths thing with taking off his shoes and throwing them around the car. Quite honestly, I was late for the appointment and didn't have time to search the whole car for a match. I kind of lost my cool and told the lady that there were far bigger issues then unmatched shoes and the good news was there was an exact same pair to the ones he was wearing, somewhere in my disaster of a car. Why do people insist on making such rude comments? It's amazing to me and I am always astonished that the most judgmental are older some.
It's crazy because my issues came before the babies, all the medications and hormonal therapy used to have a baby caused me to gain massive amounts of weight before I even got pregnant. My belly is lovingly referred to as the "fire belly". The good news is the giant purple marks fade in time. You don't notice them after a while because they just become a part of who you are. I'm not going to be walking around in a bikini or wearing belly shirts anytime soon, but let's be honest. What mother should be doing that? I loved this post. It made me feel so much better about my saggy boobs, pudgy stomach and the fact that I still love wearing my maternity jeans.

Staci said...

My iPad inserts massive amount of commas... Sorry about the grammical errors!

Tiffany said...

I loved this post. My newest addition is 10 weeks old now and I'm struggling with the fact that my body isn't beautiful. You put things into perspective for me. Thank you! I just created a precious little baby - it's hard work! I can be proud of my stretch marks and all that comes with it!

Shan said...

I think you are beautiful--inside and out! Thanks for your clarion call! YOU ARE AMAZING!!!!

David and Brooke Gallagher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David and Brooke Gallagher said...

What a beautiful post! It's funny what we go through to bring life into this world. Your right who wouldn't walk through fire just to hold a blessing of hope and love in your arms. For me it wasn't the the fact that my stomach was turning into bread dough but the comments that were made about having children ( four under five) when to have them, was I sure I knew what I was doing, your crazy! What's even sad is that family has made me feel this way. I am proud of my badges of honor and each story behind them, thank you for the wonderful reminder. A good friend once told me a women with stretch marks is a tiger who has earned her strips! You have certainly earned yours!

Kelsey said...

Well said!

Tess said...

I don't personally know you but I really wish I did. I certainly don't have adequate praise for such a wonderful post. Well said.

michelle grange said...

beautifully said Kara! and absolutely GORGEOUS babies. :) so worth it

sweetpagene said...

"After all, I know plenty of women warriors who would move heaven and earth, go to hell and back and be covered in stretch marks if it meant the end result was cuddling a little one of their own."

it's true. thanks, kara.

littlegry said...

Love that post... brought me to tears. You're so right about knowing "plenty of women warriors who would move heaven and earth, go to hell and back and be covered in stretch marks if it meant the end result was cuddling a little one of their own." Been crying lately with a friend who is going through that right now. Love your words... THANKS!!

Unknown said...

That was an amazing, empowering post. It would be great if copies of this could be handed out to women at their obgyn visits. Pregnant women hear comments about their bodies all the time as if there is a different set of boundaries reserved for pregnancy.

: 0 ) Theresa (Capri + 3)

Anonymous said...

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